Skip to navigation menu Skip to content
Please click here to read our COVID-19 policies and resources before your visit or appointment. X
Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

Doubly Good: Healthy Living Cuts Your Odds for the 2 Leading Killers

Doubly Good: Healthy Living Cuts Your Odds for the 2 Leading Killers

TUESDAY, March 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The same lifestyle habits that protect the heart can also curb the risk of a range of cancers, a large new study confirms.

The study of more than 20,000 U.S. adults found both bad news and good news.

People with risk factors for heart disease also faced increased odds of developing cancer over the next 15 years. On the other hand, people who followed a heart-healthy lifestyle cut their risk of a cancer diagnosis.

Experts said the findings are no surprise. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has estimated that close to half of cancer deaths in the United States are linked to modifiable factors -- including poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise and obesity.

But the study drives home an important message, according to Marjorie McCullough, senior scientific director for epidemiology research at the ACS.

"A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of the top two killers in the U.S.," said McCullough, who was not involved in the study.

Lead researcher Dr. Emily Lau made another point: People often think of diet and exercise as being good for the heart -- but may not always recognize their roles in cancer risk.

"When we're counseling patients, we should be talking about that," said Lau, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

She and her colleagues reported their findings Mar. 16 in the journal JACC: CardioOncology.

The results are based on 20,305 Americans who were 50 years old, on average, when the study began. Lau's team looked at how well they were adhering to the American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7."

Those recommendations advise people to:

  • Never smoke, or to quit if they do.

  • Maintain a healthy weight for their height.

  • Exercise at a moderate intensity (like brisk walking) for at least 150 minutes a week, or at a vigorous intensity (like running) for at least 75 minutes a week.

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich grains and fish, and low in salt and sugar.

  • Maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers -- which, Lau said, can be done with the help of medication when needed.

Researchers gave each participant up to 2 points per goal, depending on how well they were doing with it.

In the end, people who scored high on the heart-health scale were also less likely to develop cancer over the next 15 years: For each point they received, their risk of a future cancer declined by 5%.

The story was different for people who had major risk factors for heart disease at the study's start -- including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking. Those deemed to be at high risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years were over three times more likely to develop cancer compared to people with a low heart attack risk.

McCullough said the AHA recommendations on diet, weight, exercise and smoking largely align with advice from the cancer society.

But the ACS also stresses the role of alcohol in some cancers, including throat, esophageal, liver, breast and colon cancers. Drinking accounts for about 6% of all U.S. cancers, the society estimates.

"It's best to avoid alcohol," McCullough said.

As for exercise, the ACS encourages people to do a bit more -- ideally logging more than 300 minutes each week. But the most important step, according to McCullough, is to get off the couch, since sedentary people can see health benefits from becoming regularly active to some degree.

McCullough pointed to a simple mantra: "Move more, sit less."

Cancer, of course, is many diseases, and the risk factors vary according to the type, McCullough noted. Obesity, for example, is more closely linked to certain cancers -- such as uterine, breast and esophageal cancers -- than others.

In this study, the modifiable risk factor that made the biggest difference in overall cancer risk was smoking. That, Lau said, underscores the importance of helping smokers quit -- both for cancer prevention and the sake of their hearts.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on Life's Simple 7.

SOURCES: Emily Lau, MD, cardiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Marjorie McCullough, ScD, RD, senior scientific director, epidemiology research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; JACC: CardioOncology, March 16, 2021, online

Reviewed Date: --

This content was reviewed by Mid-Atlantic Womens Care, PLC. Please visit their site to find an Mid-Atlantic Womens Care obstetrician.

Find a pediatrician
Helpful Information
Mid-Atlantic Womens's Care
Cardiology
Dr. Tracy Alderson
Dr. Rose Cummings
Dr. Alexander Ellis
Dr. Robert Escalera II
Dr. Jonathan Fleenor
Dr. Lopa Hartke
Dr. John Reed
Dr. Elliot Tucker
Dr. Michael Vance
Children's Cardiac Surgery
Dr. Emily Downs
Dr. James Gangemi
Dr. Philip Smith
Endocrinology/Diabetology
Dr. Eric Gyuricsko
Dr. Nicole Nejedly
Dr. Melinda Penn
Dr. Kent Reifschneider
Dr. Melissa Russell
Dr. Marta Satin-Smith
Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Dr. Rana Ammoury
Dr. Orhan Atay
Dr. Michael Konikoff
Dr. Sameer Lapsia
Dr. V. Marc Tsou
Dr. Nancy Yokois
Hematology and Oncology
Dr. Wilson File
Dr. Eric Lowe
Dr. Melissa Mark
Dr. William Owen
Dr. Linda Pegram
Dr. Kevin Todd
Dr. Katherine Watson
Dr. Eric Werner
Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery
Dr. Cristina Baldassari
Dr. David Darrow
Dr. Craig Derkay
Dr. Thomas Gallagher
Dr. Stephanie Moody Antonio
Ear, Nose and Throat, Ltd.
Dr. Peter Bondy
Dr. Brian D. Deutsch
Dr. David Dorofi
Dr. R. Jeffrey Hood
Dr. John Kalafsky
Dr. Michael Shroyer
Childrens Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Dr. James Bennett
Dr. J. Marc Cardelia
Dr. Peter Moskal
Dr. Cara Novick
Dr. Stephanie Pearce
Dr. Carl St. Remy
Sports Medicine
Dr. Joel Brenner
Dr. Aisha Joyce
Dr. Micah Lamb
Dr. David Smith
Health Tips
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
High Blood Pressure: Kids Can Have It, Too
It’s Snow Fun: Skiing and Snowboarding
Making Family Fitness Fun
Strength Training at Home
Talking With Your Kids About Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco
Quizzes
Diabetes: Test Your Knowledge
Food Quiz
Food Safety Quiz
Heart Health Quiz
Heart Quiz for Women Only
Nicotine Quiz
Swimming Quiz
Prevention
Prevention Guidelines for Men 18 to 39
Prevention Guidelines for Women 18 to 39
Prevention Guidelines for Women 40 to 49
Prevention Guidelines for Women 50-64
Prevention Guidelines for Women 65+
NewsLetters
Rates of Childhood Diabetes Skyrocket During the Pandemic
10 Extra Minutes of Exercise Saves Lives
3 Heart-Friendly Ways to Upgrade Your Day
3 Retro Fitness Trends Worth Trying
5 Steps to Lower Your Risk for Breast Cancer
5 Ways to Manage Blood Pressure Without Medicine
6 Ways to Spice Up Your Exercise Routine
Are You Exercising Hard Enough?
Coping with the Emotional Side of Cancer
Find (and Keep) Your Exercise Motivation
Get Growing to Get Going
Good News for Breast Cancer Patients: The Latest Treatments Improve Health and Well-being
High Blood Pressure: Beyond the Numbers
How Housework Can Help You Meet Your Exercise Goals
Lifesaving Truths About Hypertension
OTC Medicines Raise Concerns About Blood Pressure
Pressed for Time? HIIT It
Running Free: The Key Is Injury Prevention
The Great Pumpkin Workout
Diseases & Conditions
About Cancer
Anomalous Coronary Artery in Children
Cancer Treatment for Children
Causes of Cancer
Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Cancer
Coping with a Diagnosis of Cancer in Children
Diagnosing Cancer
Exercise and Children
Exercise and Teenagers
Healthy Diets Overview
High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Home Page - Cardiovascular Disorders
How the Liver Works
Nutritional Requirements for a Child With Cancer
Pregnancy and Medical Conditions
Pregnancy and Pre-existing Heart Disease
Preschooler Nutrition
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Smoking
Teens and Diabetes Mellitus
The Liver
Toddler Nutrition

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.